Valuable and actionable counsel for forward-thinking business leaders.



A leadership consultant explains how certain conversations can transform a business.

Hawkes uses an unusual but apropos word to define the constant change that most business leaders face: “the Swirl.” The term acts as an anchor in an absorbing business book that brilliantly addresses how to cope with the turbulence of change, culminating in “seven crucial conversations” that lead to organizational transformation. Before enumerating and explaining these, the author logically lays the groundwork by first “Framing the Conversation” in Part 1 and then exploring “The Evolution of an Enterprise” in Part 2. Hawkes urges readers not to jump ahead to the conversations themselves in Part 3; this is good advice, because the initial sections provide a solid foundation for understanding later ideas. The first offers an excellent overview of the business organization, with an emphasis on the underappreciated notion that “teams and organizations are complex, adaptive, social systems.” Hawkes aptly demonstrates how a drive toward “alignment” can help keep Swirl to a minimum in such systems. He neatly notes how every business has three basic elements, depicted in a triangle: “Develop, Sell, and Deliver.” Hawkes also postulates that business growth occurs in “three domains” related to transformational change: “Leadership and Culture,” “Capabilities and Roles,” and “Strategies and Customer Experience.” The book’s second part concentrates on how an enterprise evolves, covering four stages of this evolution in considerable detail. The most engaging aspect is his assertion that these stages revolve around both individual and collective actions within an organization, from “Independent Contributors” in Stage 1 to “Leaders Leading Leaders” in Stage 4. The author clearly describes each of these stages and supplements them with examples.

Parts 1 and 2 are so detailed and relevant to modern organizational leadership that they could easily stand on their own, but Part 3 is the heart of the book. Hawkes introduces it by noting that “Organizations evolve at the speed of conversation.” He then devotes a chapter to each of the “Seven Crucial Conversations,” involving such concepts as “Activating Purpose,” “Shifting Mindset,” and “Aligning Strategies.” He elegantly describes each of these in broad terms to avoid overwhelming readers, but he also provides enough detail to give his insights some impact. For example, for “Activating Purpose,” he provides readers with a series of questions, including “Does this team have a leader willing and able to activate a shared team purpose? How will decisions be made in this team? What is the shared purpose of the team? Are the needs of the customers and stakeholders whom we serve clear?” Useful sidebars highlight specific examples and key terms. Hawkes deftly concludes the book by restating what he promised in the introduction: “an operating system” for business transformation, which he sees as “both a human journey and a shared journey.” The author succeeds at this goal, skillfully exposing the complexities of organizations without minimizing uncomfortable realities. Overall, the book provides a fresh perspective on how to provide effective leadership even in challenging circumstances.

Valuable and actionable counsel for forward-thinking business leaders.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-119-86879-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Wiley

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...


A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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